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Archive for Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Editorial: KU priorities

Amid all the efforts to attract top athletes, is Kansas University keeping enough focus on its academic mission?

January 8, 2014

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Although detailed plans for a new $17.5 million apartment building near Allen Fieldhouse haven’t been revealed, it appears Kansas University athletic officials believe they need new and better apartments to house and attract highly recruited athletes.

Congratulations to Kansas Board of Regents Vice Chairman Kenny Wilk for raising concerns about the cost of this project during Monday’s meeting of the regents’ Fiscal Affairs and Audit Committee. He noted that the $17.5 million for a project that will house 66 students amounted to about $265,000 per one-bedroom unit. A KU representative countered that the overall cost also includes a commons area, academic resource area and parking, but, by any measure, this is an expensive facility for just 66 students, and the regents should examine the proposal fully before considering its approval at their meeting next week.

KU is asking the regents to amend its 2014 capital improvements plan to include the new apartment building, but the timeline for constructing the building depends on fundraising. Officials say they hope construction on the building, which will be paid for with private funds (raised by the athletics department?) and bond proceeds, can begin by March 2015. The building will be located north of Oliver Hall and run by KU’s Division of Student Housing.

It is not certain how the project will affect Jayhawker Towers northwest of Allen Fieldhouse, but KU spokesman Jack Martin noted that Jayhawker Towers, which currently houses many KU athletes, has a long waiting list, “so this project will help meet demand for on-campus apartments, as well as assisting in recruitment.”

That last priority appears to be the key. According to KU, the new facility would provide housing for 32 student-athletes and 34 other students, who have completed at least 30 credit hours. Spending $17.5 million to house 66 students in furnished apartments should provide fairly nice accommodations. Maybe it’s needed to “keep up with the Joneses” in the ever-growing arms race to attract star athletes.

The new Rock Chalk Park complex; constant upgrading of Allen Fieldhouse; a planned major renovation, including lowering the football field, in Memorial Stadium; larger and larger coaches’ salaries; and, now, the possibility of a new athletic dorm all apparently are geared to enhance KU’s ability to attract more star athletes.

What’s next?

Are similar efforts being made to attract academic stars? The number of academic scholarships has been increased in recent years. Perhaps some of the new dorms planned for the Daisy Hill area will have facilities set aside for superior students, but from the perspective of someone outside Lawrence — and maybe many living in Lawrence — it appears the desire to win more football games, basketball games, track meets and other Olympic sports contests is a top priority and providing better facilities and better housing are a necessity.

Is it an athletic tail or an academic tail that is wagging the Kansas University Jayhawk?

Comments

Lawrence Morgan 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Amid all the efforts to attract top athletes, is Kansas University keeping enough focus on its academic mission?

The answer is NO.

And the person responsible for most of this is the current chancellor and Board of Regents.

It is the chancellor's role to lead, and that has not been the case with the current chancellor, although I wish it were. And the Board of Regents is right behind her, going completely in the wrong direction.

As I commented in yesterday's story about the Fieldhouse Apartments, the answer is - if they want to build more apartments - to put in many more Scholarship Halls. These provide a wonderful experience for all, benefit lower-class students, and they generally create leadership that is outstanding. I was in one, Pearson Scholarship Hall, and I have benefited from the experience ever since.

And as for the location of the Fieldhouse Apartments (or whatever they are going to be called) - I and many others would prefer open space, perhaps with new trails that can link up all parts of the city, including the new nature park and trail which is close to Bert Nash.

There are many of us who value this kind of open space very much. We don't need to see more houses and condos going up on this very valuable land. The eye needs space when it walks and thinks.

I'm not the first to say this, but there should be trails throughout the city, connecting each part into a community whole, and also connecting with Baldwin City, Eudora, and Ottawa, for starters. We don't need more and more "Kansas City" down our throats.

Jack Martin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Great universities move forward on several fronts at once. Across the street from the proposed Fieldhouse Apartments we’re preparing to build a privately-funded School of Business building, and up the road work is underway on state-supported School of Engineering expansion. On Daisy Hill, we’re on track to build two new residence halls, which come after recently completed renovations at GSP. And when it comes to recruiting talented students, on top of the four-year renewable scholarships for undergraduates, we just announced new fellowships for doctoral students.

In short, we aspire to be excellent in everything we do.

But if we want to talk about priorities and academics vs. athletics, how many staff members is the LJW sending to Norman today? If KU had a dozen faculty members presenting at a conference at the University of Oklahoma, could we expect similar coverage?

Bob Zimmerman 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe recruiting more athletes will help improve the declining enrollment numbers for the last five years.

Oooops...I forgot that to realize that less students actually mean you need more campus resources. "Pretzel logic" is good with a little mustard.

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